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Black Rings: Leupold Mark 4HD is your cost-effective alternative

Black Rings: Leupold Mark 4HD is your cost-effective alternative

I HAVEN’T BEEN THIS EXCITED about a new line of riflescopes in forever. I get pretty jazzed about flagship optics because they offer unparalleled capabilities. What gets me about the new Leupold Mark 4HD series is the amount of performance offered for the price. Mark 4HD scopes represent what’s possible when an American company does all of its engineering and manufacturing in-house. However, to understand what the new Mark 4HD models offer requires a short analysis of, and comparison to the Mark 5 HD. 


A quick glance at the Mark 4HD scopes may cause some confusion because they look similar to those in the Mark 5HD family. That assessment is more accurate than the price differences might indicate; the Mark 5HD line starts at around £2700. Ahead of this review, I obtained four of the new Mark 4HD scopes, three having near identical magnification ranges when compared to the Mark 5HD scopes. Optically, the new Mark 4HD scopes are identical to the Mark 5HD scopes, which is significant.

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Leupold kept the optical performance high by using the same source for glass and similar coatings in both the Mark 4HD and Mark 5HD. Next, Leupold moved from a 5X erector assembly and a 35mm maintube, which appears in the 2-10x30mm, 3.6-18x44mm, 5-25x56mm and 7-35x56mm scopes to a 4X erector assembly in the Mark 4HD line. Built on 30mm and 34mm maintubes, the Mark 4HD line currently includes the 1-4.5x24mm, 2.5- 10x42mm, 4.5-18x52mm, 6-24x52mm and 8-32x56mm. By the numbers, these may not seem that different, but the 4X erector assembly is a lot easier to manufacture because the lenses inside the erector assembly don’t need to move as much. Leupold took that savings from streamlining its manufacturing to make the Mark 4HD more affordable.

There are optical advantages with a 4X erector assembly. Regardless of the scope manufacturer, wider magnification ranges make the light work more as it passes through the scope. The more a scope manipulates available light, the harder it is for the scope to maintain its optical qual. ite potential. Lient consists of numerous colours, each with its own wavelength. and each wavelength bends differently. Unless light bends to the same point at the same time, the image suffers. Moving from a 5X1 erector tox. 4% erector — if everything else remains the same — yields better image quality. The 4X erector beats the 5X in this category for this reason.

To keep optical performance and lower the price, Leupold also made the scopes slightly longer. Making a scope longer allowed engineers to bend light less aggressively: Again, being gentle on manipulating light is a key component to creating a scope with great image quality. The Mark 5HD scores are shorter, blend lights at better angles and require more lenses to correct the problems this approach creates. That said, if a shooter needs a shorter scope, the Mark 5HD is the way to go. Both scope lines offer similar levels of image quality, but the Mark 5HD scopes are almost always shorter than the Mark 4HD model.

Price-point issues

Riflescopes at the £1600 to £1900 price range are where customers expect to find premium features, even though this isn't really where premium pricing starts. Manufacturers desperately want to give customers what they want (because that's how they sell scopes and stay in business). 

The price range of the Mark 4HD line is where it isn't hard to find scopes with desirable reticles, good optical quality, exposed elevation turrets with zero-stops, and side focus. The Mark 4 HD scopes possess all of these features at appropriate magnification levels. However, Its details such as "off-axis viewing", "stray light management," "tube thickness," and "eye relief" that will come back to haunt you if you're a consumer who isn't doing homework. The Mark 4HD price point competes against mid-grade Japanese production and high-end Philippine production because scopes imported from these locations share similar features at similar pricing. Where Leupold has a significant advantage is that they maintain total control of its design and production of the Mark 4HD. The Mark 4HD suffers from none of these. 

Take any scope in this price range, mount it on a rifle and then look through the scope and acquire a full field of view Slight head movements to the left and right or up and down can often cause the image to blur before it disappears. Being able to see the reticle, even when not perfectly centred behind the scope, is called "off-axis viewing. (Unfortunately, this often gets lumped into the ambiguous term "eyebox.") The Mark 4HD scopes all keep the image clear and sharp through the entire range of off-axis viewing. This allows the shooter to be in a less-than-ideal shooting position and still shoot accurately; it's a nice feature to have when shooting quickly from field positions. Mark 4HD scopes have this capability because Leupold engineers made it happen.

Another area where Mark 4HD scopes are distinguished is with stray light management. Leupold has an optical engineer devoted exclusively to this task. I know of no other scope company that can make the same claim. Stray light management becomes important when the sun is low on the horizon, shining into the objective lens. It's usually the time when your rifle is oriented towards a target and the sun is coming up or going down.

Scopes in the Mark 4HD price range almost always struggle with stray light management because the image seen through the scope becomes hazy and sometimes washed out. It's almost like looking into a bright white fog bank. The Mark 4HD excels at stray light management. It's the only scope in this price range that I've seen do so. 

Tube thickness is another area that haunts scopes of this price point. Since none of us are going to cut a scope in half to see how thick the walls are, the best indicator of tube thickness is the torque value for score ranges that come from the scope manufacturer. Leupold recommends 22 to 25 inch-pounds (in.-Ibs.) of torque on ring screws to secure the Mark 4HD. Leupold can do this because they make the tube thick and know that scopes on hard-recoiling niles can move if not held tightly enough. I get nervous when I see scope manufacturers recommend 15 to 18 in -Ibs, for the scope rings. It tells me the tube isn't thick and anything heavier than 18 in.-bs. may deform the tube, damaging the scope. Scopes that are held lightly in rings are also more susceptible to point-of-impact (POD) shifts from incidental contact because a blow to the scope can cause it to shift in the rings. The tubes on the Mark 4HD models are thick enough to torque tightly, eliminating movement under recoil and reducing the probability of scope movement from incidental impact.

The final detail that Leupold got right (where many brands go wrong) is the eye relief. Most variable-powered scopes have eye relief set at shout 3 ½  inches. Leupold increased the distance between the scope and the shooter's eye to 3.8 to 4 inches. Leupold pays a small price for a slightly tighter field of view to do this, but doing so minimises risk to the shooter when firing hard-recoiling rifles or when shooting from unconventional held positions. 




This low-power variable optic (LPVO) model is available with three different reticles, all in the second focal plane (SFP): FireDot BDC illuminated, FireDot TMR illuminated and HPR-1. t Two models are  illuminated and feature Leupold’s FireDot fibre-optic system. The FireDot  illumination system guarantees the dot will be visible in all lighting conditions.  These scopes are ideal for use on hunting rifles where shots will likely be in 400 yards. They're also great for AR-pattern rifles and carbines used for self-defence, competition, training or range work.

The exposed elevation turret allows for  a more precise shot placement to extend ranges too, which is a feature not normally found at this magnification range. 




There are 4 models of this scope, two with illuminated reticles. Three scopes have first focal plane (FFP) reticles and one has an SFP reticle. PRI-MOA, TMR (MK) illuminated FFP, TMR  illuminated SFP and TMR (MK). Parallax on all of these scopes is set at the factory for 150 yards. This magnification range and exposed elevation turret make the 2.5-10X family of scopes ideal for dinging steel out to 1.000 wards. It's also great for hunting at distance, so long as the shooter feels comfortable with the shot. 




There are four models in this magnification range all of which are FFP. However, there are two mil-based reticles and 2 MOA reticles with one of each being illuminated. PR1-MOA illuminated FFP, PRI-MIL illuminated  FFP, PR2-MIL FFP, PR2-MOA FFP. These scopes are going to be a great choice for competition shooters and hunters who prefer FFP reticles. If you increase the magnification, the reticle appears to grow with the image. The reticle's subtension will remain true across the entire magnification range. All. of these models have side-focus turrets too, and an exposed elevation turret. The windage turret is also exposed and can be locked. 


6-24X52MM & 8-32x56mm


These two scopes each have three reticles all FFP. PR2-MIL FFP, PR2-MOA FFP, PR3-MIL FFP.

There are no illuminated reticles available because these scopes are aimed at competition and range use within the Mark 4HD price range. 

The Mark 4HD line exists because Leupold listened to its customers and took notes at the firing lines. Many expressed interest in Mark 5HD performance, but couldn't afford those scopes, or they asked for the FFP version of the VX-5HD. The Mark 4HD is so close to the Mark 5HD that it is difficult to tell the difference.  The Mark 4HD are longer and have a smaller magnification range across the entire family. 

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